Economic Rights in Canada and the United States

Economic Rights in Canada and the United States

Economic Rights in Canada and the United States

Economic Rights in Canada and the United States

Synopsis

In essays by several senior and some new scholars, this volume explains how these rights are realised - or violated - in Canada and the United States. Central to the problems of both countries are the human rights abuses evident in all contemporary capitalist societies.

Excerpt

Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann and Claude E. Welch, Jr.

In 1910, the novelist Anatole France wrote of his country, “We in France are … citizens. Our citizenship is [an] … occasion for pride! For the poor it consists in supporting and maintaining the rich in their power and their idleness. At this task they must labor in the face of the majestic equality of the laws, which forbid rich and poor alike to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” Only the poor were inconvenienced by the prohibition on sleeping under bridges.

Anatole France’s aphorism shows the danger of assuming that equality before the law can result in an outcome that satisfies common-sense ideas of substantive material security. Indeed, his comment reflects an earlier observation by Karl Marx. In unequal economic situations, said Marx, an “equal” right was a right of inequality. “Right by its very nature can consist only in the application of an equal standard: but unequal individuals … are measurable only by an equal standard in so far as they are brought under an equal point of view … and nothing more is seen in them, everything else being ignored…. To avoid all these defects, right instead of being equal would have to be unequal.” The only right that made sense to the proletariat (the working class) according to Marx’s collaborator, Friedrich Engels, was the “spontaneous reaction against the crying social inequalities” that characterized life in their times. The debate about the relationship between equality of opportunity and substantive material equality has continued since Marx and Engels’s time. In human rights terms, we are now interested in minimal economic security, recognizing that economic equality is impossible.

The international human rights regime includes a set of laws regarding economic rights, most especially those that are enumerated in the 1976 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights . . .

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